Mondays can be a real drag. That’s one of the reasons Literally, Darling is so delighted to bring you Aural Fixation at the beginning of every week! There’s nothing like new music for a little re-up on your mojo to get you through to Friday. This week, we—Austin (@Litzwich) and Melissa (@MellyPeacox), if you’re joining us for the first time—put our heads together to come up with a list of some of our favorite cover songs.
Covers are about possibility. They take the familiar and reimagine it as something else, manipulating music to alter narratives and evoke totally different components to wildly varied effects. In short—they’re awesome. They shake things up a bit and remind us all that sometimes there’s something even greater to be found where you least expect it. And as twenty-somethings, who can’t appreciate an underestimated alternative interpretation every now and again?
Here are six sensational covers, hand-picked from an eclectic grab bag of artists taking on some beloved classics and recent favorites. Let us know what you think in the comments below or tweet @litdarling with the hashtag #AuralFixation—share your favorite covers with us and they could end up in a future Aural Fixation column!
Dolly Parton’s “Jolene”
Austin: It’s insane how good this cover is. It’s also kind of insane what a great singer Miley Cyrus is—her brassy, bluegrass belt shines like a diamond in a Kentucky coal mine in this cut. She’s performed this song with Dolly Parton herself, and the duet’s awesome—just as good as Miley’s other amazing covers of Jeff Buckley’s “Lilac Wine,” Fleetwood Mac’s “Landslide,” and Bob Dylan’s “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go.” (Yeah, she’s tackled all of those songs; she knocks them all out of the park.) Awesome talent, awesome cover.
Melissa: Okay, all of you Miley nay-sayers, don’t say a word: just listen. Miley’s cover of “Jolene” is one of the best—no, it IS the best. Not just anyone can compete with THE Dolly Parton. I fell in love with Miley once I came across her Backyard Sessions, and by “came across”, I’m pretty sure Austin posted it on my Facebook wall. (Go ahead and listen to them all; you’ll soon be in love, too.) I wasn’t really a fan of the early stages of her career, but as she’s grown out of her Disney training bra, she’s an artist that I enjoy—even respect. I’m Team Miley, Robyn haircut and all.
Justin Bieber’s “Boyfriend”
Marina & The Diamonds
Melissa: This is one of my favorite songs—ever. Yes, I thought Justin Bieber’s original was catchy and extremely fun. (It may have ranked as one of my most-listened-to songs last spring.) Hell, I even made a crappy YouTube parody video with my dog mimicking Bieber’s music video teaser. But then enters Marina & the Diamonds—AKA my favorite indie pop princess. I seriously can’t get over how amazing this cover is; find me a person who doesn’t like it, and I will punch them in the face. The way she changes up Bieber’s original is truly exceptional, taking the cheesy, swaggy lyrics, and turning it into one of the best break up songs I’ve ever heard. A+.
Austin: Marina morphs “Boyfriend” into something a little “more”. As sugary (and sexy) as Bieber’s original is, this cover taps into a totally different element of the melody to dip the song in a somber, quirky shellac that helps the song tell an entirely different story—and that’s what great covers are all about.
The Killers’ “When You Were Young”
Austin: I love how buoyant and whimsical this cover is while still maintaining a real sense of soul—in particular, the bridge is killer. The Killers are one of those bands that just about anyone loves, and I can’t imagine this cover being any different; it’s a timeless spin on a truly great record, and the storytelling dynamic gets a soft, glowing spin with this warm India.Arie treatment.
Melissa: It’s been a bit since I’ve really enjoyed (and honestly, truly listened to) The Killers. (Though I was absolutely obsessed in high school.) “When You Were Young” could be a forever classic—one of those songs that bands continue to cover 20, even 50 years from now. The Noisettes completely do their own thing with this song. It’s simply lovely.
Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend”
Melissa: The amazing Swedish trio Erato covered Robyn’s “Call Your Girlfriend” back in 2011, but it’s recently resurfaced on the internet thanks to Lennon and Maisy Stella, the adorable 12- and 8-year-old (real life) sisters of ABC’s “Nashville” (which I’ve yet to watch, even though I kind of love Connie Britton). I’m equally impressed with their butter tub instruments as I am with their perfect harmonies. And is there really anything better than a break-up song? (I think we have a theme going on here…)
Austin: This one’s acapella, so it’s cheating just a bit, but it’s pretty obvious why this clip went crazy viral. From the subtle rearrangement to the absolutely beautiful harmonies, it’s a sensationally understated (and surprisingly emotional) rendition of Robyn’s electropop masterpiece. There’s such a tremendous warmth in the empathy between the girls’ voices that really drives the emotion of the song home, striking a balance between sentiment and sonic clarity that really highlights the wonderful songwriting at play.
Fleetwood Mac’s “Go Your Own Way”
Austin: Speaking of breakup songs, “Go Your Own Way” is one of the best of all time. I’ll be the first to admit, I was skeptical of a Fleetwood cover when I came across this gem. They’re probably my favorite band of all time, and between their irreplaceable chemistry and catalog of timeless hits, it’s quite the feat to do their music as good or better than they did it. I was sold seconds into Lissie’s version, though—its haunting take on the breakup classic is like listening to a Stevie Nicks arrangement of the song Lindsey Buckingham penned about her. Killer cover.
Melissa: Lissie, oh Lissie: How I always find myself longing for your voice. Lissie entered the “mainstream” circuit when Perez Hilton fell in love with her live performances of singles like Kid Cudi’s “Pursuit of Happiness” and Lady Gaga’s “Bad Romance.” However, Austin and I (both being major Fleetwood fans) fell in even deeper love with her version of “Go Your Own Way”. (Go buy the entire ‘Covered Up With Flowers’ EP here. Worth it.)
Lana Del Rey’s “Born To Die”
Melissa: Lana Del Rey is one of those musicians I never get tired of listening to. I know she has her haters, but I became a fan while everyone was still trying to figure out if they liked her. (Not sure on which side of the hipster fence that places me…) As he proves with “Born To Die,” Patrick Wolf is probably one of the few out there that can do Miss Lana justice. A classically trained violist, harpist, and composer, Wolf’s strings flow seamlessly alongside his voice, creating the perfect balance; it’s cinematic, theatrical, heartbreaking, beautiful.
Austin: There’s a total sense of dreamy ’50s teenage love here for me. I love how evocative Patrick Wolf’s voice is, and the fragile vulnerability of the harp with the crooning bass of his voice makes for a really romantic spin on an already cinematic track. It’s not hard to imagine this and Lana’s original version as lovers, telling two sides of the same tragic (but lovely) story.
Don’t forget to check out a new weekly music playlist from Aural Fixation every Monday here on Literally, Darling.